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A review of Spring Tides from Jonny Diamond in The L Magazine Fiction Issue


Spring Tides, the latest title from Brooklyn’s admirable Archipelago Books (specializing in literature in translation) is the quietly devastating story of comic-strip translator Teddy and his tenure on an isolated island off the coast of Quebec. Dropped there by his benevolent publisher, Teddy’s solitude is soon interrupted by a series of guests (some more welcome than others), whose successive attempts at integration into island life yield frustration and disappointment, mitigated only by the briefest moments of contentment. Published in 1978, at the height of the Quebec separatist movement, it is tempting to label Spring Tides an allegory for dysfunctional society, in which the best intentions lead to the worst results. But there is a deeper despair at work here, a species of muted sadness that can only be survived by embracing the absurd, as if the pared-down prose of early Poulin’s is a unique voice (economically rendered by Fischman, the translator of record for Quebec-lit) and this tragicomic parable of communication breakdown remains achingly relevant, 30 years later, to the disconnect of our hyper-connected modern lives.

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